I have a large Japanese Maple tree (about twenty feet tall) in my yard and am wondering if it can be tapped for sap to be made into syrup. Is this possible or would it just be a waste or taste bad? If it is possible, can you please provide any pointers that could help me get a good yield and not permanently damage the tree?
The simple answer is yes, all maples can be tapped for syrup. Some, such as Acer palmatum are a waste of time to try if you expect great taste and volume. This site lists the top 22 trees for the best syrup. Plenty of maples but Japanese Maple is not listed. You most certainly could try. If you follow directions you will not hurt your tree at all. Sterilize with alcohol.
22 best syrup trees
I made maple syrup from 2 silver maples long ago . The syrup is made from 'juice" that flows when the tree is dormant. When the buds swell and the tree starts to grow, the juice stops flowing and sap flows. Sap flows all summer and of course you can't make syrup from it or they would make syrup all year long. This switch from juice to sap happens in early march in the Chicago IL area. A friend said he could not make syrup from his large Norway maples; as I think back this friend was always late, I expect he tried to get juice too late in the season and got sap - it did not make syrup . So, I think Stormy's answer is correct , all maples make some level of syrup but be sure you are early enough to get juice, not sap. PS ; 20 ft tall is not much of a tree for syrup.
be aware that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. One tree would only produce a couple of gallons, depending on weather and size of the tree. You would be lucky to get a few ounces of syrup. Japanese maples not usually used for sap as they are small and sugar content not high.
It looks like you can tap Japanese Maple for syrup: http://japanhomestead.blogspot.com/2011/02/japanese-maple-syrup.html